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SpaceX rehearses Dragon’s worst-case scenario

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from its Florida launch pad to begin an in-flight test of the Crew Dragon space taxi’s abort system. (SpaceX / NASA via YouTube)

With a fiery flash and volleys of cheers, SpaceX and NASA today rehearsed something they hope will never happen: a catastrophic rocket failure at the worst time in the launch of a crewed mission to the International Space Station.

Fortunately, the closest things to crew members on today’s in-flight abort test of the Crew Dragon spaceship were two test dummies, sitting on sensors in the seats that will tell engineers how flesh-and-blood fliers would have weathered the aborted trip.

If the results of the test look good, that should take care of the final major hurdle before two actual NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, ride a different Crew Dragon to the station and back later this year.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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